A World Without Barriers: International DeafBlind Expo 2016
Creating a World Without Barriers
By Christina Ortiz.
Here’s a small glimpse of the man responsible for all of this.
Anindya Bhattacharyya, known to many of us as Bapin, is a DeafBlind man who hails from a small, poor village in India.
He came to America to “live as independently as possible” and to change the lives of thousands of people, like himself, throughout the world.
Bapin, a tech genius, helps companies develop new technologies that enable persons who are blind/low vision and/or deaf/hard of hearing to navigate in a seeing and hearing world. He has field tested a Braille-modified laptop phone–a type of Video Relay device used by the DeafBlind. Bapin also helped develop the Tactile Talking Tablet, which allows DeafBlind individuals to explore the street grids of cities they plan to visit.
A decade ago, when technology for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing and the Blind/Low Vision was scarce, Bapin was already doing whatever he could to make life more navigable for people like him, like us. His contributions to the DeafBlind community are innumerable. His company, the Bapin Group, serves individuals who are Blind, Visually Impaired, Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing, DeafBlind, and those with multiple disabilities. He provides the best technology available to suit each person’s needs. Bapin Group also serves non-profit organizations, educational agencies, private and commercial enterprises all over the world.
Having already organized and produced the first International Deaf Blind Expo (2014), Bapin was committed to recreating this event every two years. He wants to make sure that there is a place for his DeafBlind community to learn about and access to all the technology available to us.. Being DeafBlind is not a handicap. Bapin knows this, and he’s made it his life’s mission to teach others about access and ability.
Want to learn more about Bapin? Visit www.cbsnews.com/news/the-blind-deaf-tech-wiz/
Attending the 2016 International DeafBlind Expo!
By Christina Ortiz
Emily Taylor-Snell, from the Florida and Virgin Islands DeafBlind Collaborative (FAVI), asked me if I wanted to attend the International DeafBlind Expo (IDBE), taking photos and interviewing people while she was manning the FAVI display table. I had no idea what the event was (or how important it was), but I did know that it was something that could keep me busy, and that would later look amazing on my resume. So I agreed.
About a week or so before the event, I thought about cancelling my trip because I was having so much pain and feeling exhausted all the time.
I didn’t want to go and surround myself with people, to have to reach out and to talk to them, when I was feeling so miserable. I was also a bit embarrassed with how sloppy my signing skills had gotten in the last year. I had been separated from the Deaf Community in my city following brain surgery. My movements were slow, I forgot signs often, and I had a hard time following along when others signed. I didn’t want to go and surround myself with people from the Deaf Community, my community, and show how little I actually belonged.
I am so glad that I decided to go. If I hadn’t, I would have missed so much!
The International DeafBlind Expo changed my entire perspective on the Deaf/Hard of Hearing and Blind/Low Vision communities. I had seen these two communities as groups that were separated from the rest of the world. Now I see two communities working to make their own place in the world. At the Expo, I saw people trying to tear down barriers, to create bridges, and to make themselves and their needs known. They need new ways to make their lives safer and easier. It is their right to be seen and heard in the seeing and hearing world.
There were no problems with communication here, because no one would allow communication problems. There were interpreters and CART (realtime captioning) services for those who needed them. Tactile and Pro Tactile signing were both being used, and participants had Support Service Providers (SSPs) to meet any other needs they had.
At the Expo, I learned more about Pro Tactile signing, a form of haptic communication that uses touch signs for emotions, conversational feedback, and audience reactions, as well as environmental information, tactile classifiers, and tactile mapping. I saw Braille displays that connected to a phone or tablet and allowed visually impaired users to send and receive messages in real time.
Attending the International DeafBlind Expo, I was able to see a community come together and communicate with each other so that not one person was left feeling confused or out of place. This was an amazing experience. I cannot wait for a world like this–with no barriers left between us at all.
A huge thank you to my amazing SSP, Tess Drieu, who helped me out at the Expo from Thursday afternoon until Sunday, mid morning. She went above and beyond to make sure I understood what was going on, reminding me occasionally that if I didn’t understand, I needed to tell whoever I was speaking to and ask them to sign slower, and to mouth the words so that I was understanding the information being given to me.
She not only interpreted for me when I was speaking to non signers, but she also took notes for me on her phone, recorded a video of the dancing skit at the evening social when the pain got to be too much for me and I needed to go up to my room, and drove me around town so that I could stop at the bank one evening, and then go to Walmart to get a gift for my little brothers before leaving Orlando on that last day. Honestly, she’s amazing, and I couldn’t have asked for anyone better to SSP for me.